In 1997, Steve Snell took over his parents' Gun Dog Supply Company and introduced what seemed like a good idea. "We would sell dog training gear and canine maintenance products that we personally used to train and maintain our own hunting dogs." Snell says.
Those products included everything from low-tech leads, leashes and check cords to high-tech electronic training collars and invisible electronic canine containment systems — all items with which Snell and his sales staff had personal, hands-on experience.
"The thought was that when a potential customer called with a question or an existing customer called with a problem, we would give them helpful information based on what we knew from using the product," Snell recalls.
The concept worked so well that Gun Dog Supply soon grew from a staff of three selling a few dozen types of merchandise to where the business is today with 45 full-time employees and thousands of dog training and maintenance supplies.
"Though I'm no longer able to personally use and test everything we sell, there is someone on staff who has personal experience in each category of our product line," Snell says. "Most all of our merchandise on our website has a complete description of its features written by us. So customers should start online for product information. Then they can call or email us if they need further information on anything listed on our website and they will be put in contact with someone with the right expertise."
Other innovative ideas evolved as Gun Dog Supply progressed.
In addition to answering any questions about products and solving any problems with them, Gun Dog Supply also offers a 30-day, no risk, 100 percent satisfaction guarantee on everything sold by the company.
"If you don't like what you ordered, send it back and we will replace it with something more satisfying for your needs. Or we will give you your money back," Snell promises.
Speed is also promised in shipping orders. "We have almost all of our merchandise on hand and in stock in our 20,000-square foot warehouse," Snell notes. "Order something in the morning and it's shipped by that afternoon if not sooner. We don't do drop-shipping, meaning an order we receive has to be re-ordered by us from the manufacturer, which would take time and extra effort."
Free Standard Shipping is also included on all orders of $125 or more. "This is something few other companies provide and is a popular service for our customers," Snell says. "All these services, which require time and effort on our part, have made Gun Dog Supply what it is today."
When Snell answered his cell phone last October for this interview, he was hunting sharptailed grouse and Hungarian partridge in Montana — and testing some new GPS collars. Snell was a three-day drive from his home in Starkville, Mississippi.
This trip was typical of several he makes each hunting season to places where he can take his pointing dogs and retrievers to hunt upland gamebirds and waterfowl — and to use and test a variety of dog training and maintenance products.
"Yeah, some of my hunting buddies kid me about the way I seem to combine business and pleasure. I tell them I have to do this because hunting with my dogs and evaluating dog training and dog maintenance gear have been a main part of my family's business plan from the beginning," Snell says. "So far, everything is working out well this way for us and our customers at Gun Dog Supply."
Snell's next hunting trips include Canada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Texas and Georgia, each to be visited with a truckload of gun dogs and gear.
"It's a big job," Snell says, "and I'm glad to do it."